IBM's Watson Goes To The International Space Station


IBM announces that it would be providing its Watson's AI to power a robot build by Airbus to accompany astronauts on aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The five kilogram robot is called CIMON (acronym for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion), and was created primarily by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). It's a project in collaboration with IBM, the European Space Agency, and others.

CIMON is meant to be deployed with German astronaut Alexander Gerst for a six month mission. At the ISS, it's goal is to help the crew in conducting medical experiments, studying crystals, and even playing a Rubix cube.

The robot that resembles a volleyball, has an expressive low-resolution face. It's like a tribute to the volleyball with a face on Tom Hanks' movie Castaway. Here, CIMON can be the astronauts’ friend, as IBM said on its blog post:

"CIMON’s digital face, voice and use of artificial intelligence make it a 'colleague' to the crew members. This collegial 'working relationship' facilitates how astronauts work through their prescribed checklists of experiments, now entering into a genuine dialogue with their interactive assistant."

Helping the crew, CIMON can also take pictures, offer advice and going over procedures astronauts need to do in maintaining their health on board the space station, as well as learn things from them..

Not to mention Watson’s voice processing suite makes it handy assistant researchers can interact and engage with, even when busy..

What's more, CIMON that can float and move around in the ISS using an air-propulsion system, can also be developed to work as an alert system for the crew on the ISS, according to IBM. Here, it's AI is a standalone version, which means it doesn't need internet connection to work.

And because it acts like an intelligent camera, CIMON can ultimately spy on astronauts to help them assess their emotional states and psychological group affects. This could help better engineer months- or years-long journeys to the moon or Mars.

According to Airbus:

"CIMON will be the first [artificial intelligence]-based mission and flight assistance system. Social interaction between people and machines, between astronauts and assistance systems equipped with emotional intelligence, could play an important role in the success of long-term missions."

“We predict that assistance systems of this kind also have a bright future right here on earth, such as in hospitals or to support nursing care."